Senior living facility raises questions about affordability, unions | Keeping Up With the Council

Senior living facility raises questions about affordability, unions

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Councilor Darlene Harris - PHOTO BY MARK SCHWARZ
  • Photo by Mark Schwarz
  • Councilor Darlene Harris
Yesterday, Pittsburgh City Council voted to adopt a sewage facilities proposal for the Hillcrest Senior Residences, a new $15-million development in the Carrick-Brentwood area.

"This is the first multi-million dollar investment we've had on Brownsville road maybe ever," said Rudiak. "This is particularly in an area that needs to be stabilized, that right now has its share of blight. We're very excited to have our seniors living there and have more eyes on the road and more folks walking up and down the street and enjoying the amenities there."

Though the sewage facilities plan was approved by a resounding majority, some council members used the opportunity to discuss the issues of affordability and union participation in new developments. Councilor Darlene Harris asked whether the developers were working with union contractors.

"I've had conversations with the unions about this, and they have bid out to the spectrum of contractors that are union as well," said Councilor Natalia Rudiak, who represents the district where the new development is located. "They're putting out the bid to both, but I can't tell you who they have on contract to do the work. I have been in touch with the unions about this work, and they have been interested in the project. And I did connect Community Builders with the [unions] to make sure they were in the fold."

Community Builders is an affordable housing developer with some properties in the East End. 

Councilor Ricky Burgess did not share Harris' concern about union participation in the project and instead took the opportunity to highlight the lack of minority and women inclusion in the unions.

Councilor Ricky Burgess - PHOTO BY MIKE SCHWARZ
  • Photo by Mike Schwarz
  • Councilor Ricky Burgess
"I'll use this moment to say what I said to the unions collectively. I would be willing to support Pittsburgh being a closed shop like Philadelphia if the unions are willing to mandate a percentage of women and minority participation in their craft. The day when they guarantee X number of minority members in their unions, I would be willing to vote that Pittsburgh would be a closed shop. But until that happens, in order to continue to have diversity on work sites, you're going to need a combination of union and non union members." 

Councilor Burgess also asked that he be sent information on how many of the units will be affordable.

Rudiak said she doesn't have concrete numbers on the level of affordability, though she believes at least half of the 66 units will be affordable.

The development received a $1 million tax credit from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.


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